2002 Research Report
of Agriculture and Resource Economics
in the Commons:
A Village-Level Approach"
project proposes to examine the determinants of deforestation
in common property resources of Mexico. Field research
during the summer was spent on finishing the design of
a survey, pre-testing, and applying the survey in 500
rural communities. The data will be used as a basis for
my dissertation and several other studies that will serve
to inform the design of a payment for environmental services
program in Mexico.
Over the past 20 years, Mexico’s forest cover has decreased by over 50%,
with rates of deforestation second in the world only to Brazil (Market Report,
April-May 2001, U.S. Forest Product Industry, Mexico Office, http://www.afandpa.org/products/International/MR_Mexicomay01.pdf).
This shocking realization combined with the evidence linking forest cover to
water quality and carbon sequestration, have inspired the government to take
action in the form of a payment for environmental amenities program. Although
similar programs have been successfully implemented in other countries – including
the United States and Costa Rica – the Mexican forests are in the unique
situation of being located almost entirely in common property lands, the owners
of which are among the poorest in the country. It is within this context that
this summer’s activities took place; the immediate objective of the trip
was to collect data for a deforestation model with a community perspective.
survey is the first step towards reaching two larger
objectives. First, on a practical level, the analysis
of this summer’s data will provide the foundation
for the design of Mexico’s payment for environmental
amenities program. Second, the research based upon this
information proposes to answer the broader question of
which local institutions lead to more sustainable management
of commons resources. The answer to this question and
the design of the payment scheme will serve as the basis
for my dissertation.
central function of the survey is to understand both
the state of the common property resources housed by ejidos (land-holding
units created in the wake of the Mexican revolution whereby
large extensions of land were divided up to be managed
in common by groups of peasants), as well as the decisions
taken in their management. To this end, the instrument
combines community mapping, an indirect census, and questions
regarding outcomes of decision-making and characteristics
of those making decisions. This project brings together
Mexican and U.S. academics with policy-makers in order
to design a program of payment for environmental services
in the common property forests of the Mexican countryside.
The project, though managed by the Instituto Nacional
de Ecología (INE), was jointly financed by
the World Bank, the Iberoamericana University, and the Centro
de Investigación y Docencias Económicas.
My two months spent in Mexico city were divided into two central activities:
design and application of the survey.
With the support of professors from UC Berkeley and staff of the INE, the survey
was modified and pretested during the month of June. Part of the instrument
depends heavily upon pre-designed vegetation maps of the community which
serve as a starting point for answering questions regarding land-use. The
other half of the survey is an indirect census intended to collect information
regarding relative wealth levels and leadership within the community. The
survey is designed to be administered to four or five community representatives,
who have generally been elected by the village assembly.
addition to testing that had taken place in the spring,
the maps and survey were tested in five communities in
the states of Mexico and Puebla. June also saw the training
of surveyors and regional coordinators, in which I also
participated jointly with the INE and the Iberoamerican
In order to complete the survey in five weeks, the country was divided into
five zones, each with a regional coordinator. Sixty surveyors were hired
with the intention of their working in teams of two. I worked as coordinator
of the Southeast region, composed of Southern Veracruz, Tabasco, Campeche,
Yucatán and Quintana Roo. The responsibilities of the coordinator
range from organizing appointments with ejidos, transportation, per diem,
food and housing for the surveyors to reviewing and coding questionnaires,
correcting surveyors in the field during their application of the instrument,
and serving as something of a social worker to the group.
between cities often came in the form of overnight buses,
and we were fortunate enough to receive the support of
the regional offices of the Agrarian Reform for travel
to the communities, generally in the back of their pick-up
trucks. My four survey teams completed their 60 ejidos
in less than four weeks, at which point I accompanied
two teams to Southwest Chiapas to support the coordinator
in that region and sent two of my teams to Jalísco
in Central Mexico.
Presently, the last completed surveys are being reviewed by the national coordinator
in anticipation of the data entry process which is to begin this week. Data
analysis is scheduled to be completed in the winter, at which point I will
begin analysis of the information together with the counterpart researchers
in Mexico. The survey data will be used both as a basis of my thesis as well
as research taking place at Mexican universities. With regards to the payment
for environmental services program, a pilot project has received financing
for April of 2003.